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Car reviews - Hyundai - Kona - N-Line Premium


We like
Striking looks, strong performance, nothing to plug in, well featured, bigger than before, fun to drive, extensive safety kit, well suspended, crisp dynamics, showcase of Hyundai’s new tech
Room for improvement
Intrusive driver assist features, misplaced shift by wire selector, won’t remember some driver selections, can be thirsty, where’s the Kona N?

Petrol-powered all-wheel drive Kona a tempting proposition at same price as hybrid

8 Oct 2023



Hyundai’s has gone for the doctor with its new Kona small SUV ushering in not only chunky new Robocop styling and larger dimensions but a raft of new features and technology including Bluelink, Hyundai’s expansive connected car services.


The range topping test model, a Kona Premium N-Line 1.6 T GDi (AWD), sells for $46,500 excluding on-road costs, but it has few direct competitors when comparing apples with apples…. turbo petrol, all-wheel drive, equipment specs, price and other considerations.


Sister brand Kia offers the Seltos 1.6 GT-Line AWD from $44,900 plus ORC but that’s about it unless you factor in VW’s base model AWD T-Roc starting at $600 more with a lot less kit.


As the top model (a place shared with the forthcoming FWD Kona Hybrid), Kona Premium N-Line boasts extensive standard equipment covering luxury and safety.


Goodies include Nappa leather in a choice of three colours, Bose eight-speaker audio, wireless phone charging, the first application of Hyundai’s excellent eight-speed auto in Kona, power tailgate and power adjustment to the front seats with all five sporting ventilation and heating.


There’s a large 12.3-inch multimedia screen in the middle of the dash with native sat nav, voice control, updates, SMS playback and split screen function to name a few features.


The dash itself is described by Hyundai as a “floating” design but is conventional in appearance and layout highlighted by a (tacky) red strip towards the bottom edge.


The five-seat passenger compartment offers considerably more space compared with the previous Kona… in all measurements and the load area is similarly more capacious with a space saver spare underneath.


It’s yet to be ANCAP tested but based on the previous model’s five star rating the new Kona should be better augmented with all the latest Hyundai SmartSense safety kit implemented through the vehicle’s design and engineering flowing into its dynamics, and providing primary protection in the event of a crash.


But the most interesting aspect of the new Kona for many will be its Bluelink connectivity system that, far from being a mere marketing term, brings with it over-the-air updates and a whole swag of clever features beneficial to the driver and passengers.


These include such things as trip routing, collision notification, valet mode with PIN protection, weather reports, last minute (walking) sat nav, remote services, remote vehicle check, car health and plenty more.


It is a car that would hold strong appeal for a certain generation which has grown up living their life vicariously through a mobile phone and surrounded by tech.


Driving Impressions


While bemoaning the demise of the Kona N 2.0-litre turbo hot rod, this model delivers plenty of wow factor in a somewhat muted manner and it’s easy to forget you are in a “small” Kona, not something the next size up like the Tucson.


There ain’t no snap, crackle and pop from the exhaust and it won’t push you back into the seat under maximum acceleration or hook really hard around twisties but the N-Line 1.6T GDi makes a good fist of sporty driving accentuated by its all-wheel drive, something it has over the previous Kona N as it was a bum dragger with accompanying limitations.


Add in the slick shifting eight-speed auto and you have a more than satisfactory powertrain that is as capable as it is communicative and inherently safe. Not once did I catch the test car in the wrong gear as the auto seems almost intuitive as though it has a camera looking forward to aid gear selection.


Of course, Sport was the preferred drive mode as it provides the best responses and quickest acceleration though also consumes more juice that grudgingly edged near to the claimed 7.6 litres per 100km combined average with the up side being regular unleaded is sufficient saving (a lot) of coin in these inflated times.


The engine has been around for yonks, a decade or more, but still hauls strongly though losing a few kilowatts along the way and is now rated at 146kW and 265Nm output.


It’s smooth and efficient and makes easy work of propelling the Kona N-Line in all driving environments though you’d be nuts to take it off road despite the provision of a Multi Terrain mode and Hyundai’s HTRAC on-demand all-wheel-drive that is essentially front wheel drive with the rear axle engaged when provoked.


Stay on the black top and the Kona N-Line is in a happy place.


Dynamics are well sorted thanks to local engineering input with a firm, comfortable ride delivered by the strut front and multi-link rear set up. It has quick electric steering with 2.5 turns lock to lock and plenty of feel in between including on-centre.


Ultimate understeer is avoided in silly quick cornering through electronic intervention where the car pretty much goes dead but otherwise, those same electronics deliver a fairly neutral attitude in normal driving.


The brakes are good due to appropriate pad selection and large 305mm front discs even though the model weighs between 1450kg – 1585kg. The towing capacity is 1300kg which is a tad limiting given you have to factor in the weight of the trailer first.


From the driver’s seat, the test car feels sorted with easy adjustment/access to controls and comfortable, well bolstered seats. But the gear selector is a pain to use as it impedes the operation of the indicator stalk on the right and seems too slow when selecting R or D regardless of being a “drive by wire” feature.


Hooking up all devices and functions is time consuming with some reverting to standard setting after switching off necessitating going through the rigmarole to set it how you want it every time you get in. It’s a PITA.


The new Kona N-Line has street appeal due to the sharp new styling accentuated by aero body add-ons all around the periphery topped off with a big rear wing atop the tailgate. It has a sporty stance and big 19-inch alloys with sticky rubber.


The audio impresses, interior décor is slick and Kona N-Line’s many creature comforts including the heated and ventilated seats are appreciated.


And with the Kona N now a thing of the past, we reckon a few more neddies would be handy.

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